The first definitive evidence that genes can be influenced and shaped by environmental factors

McGill Professor of Pharmacology Moshe Szyf discovered that our DNA, rather than being static, is influenced by our behaviour and environment. Szyf discovered that genes that lead to conditions like cardiovascular disease or Alzheimer’s could, in theory, be turned on or off.

Szyf’s pioneering research in epigenetics has proven that although our DNA is essentially locked upon conception, exposure to external factors such as toxins and nutrients can precipitate chemical reactions that permanently alter the way our genes react. Once triggered, a group of molecules called a methyl group will attach itself to the control centre of a gene, switching it off completely and changing how the gene behaves without changing the DNA sequence.